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The proposed FAR for Site 5 of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park? Well, 23.5

80 Flatbush foreground, Site 5 background;
photo taken from 333 Schermerhorn
Given the discussion about the proposed Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of the 80 Flatbush project, I've been asked what the FAR is for the proposed Site 5 project, the plot of land catercorner to the arena plaza, currently occupied by Modell's and P.C. Richard.

Remember, FAR is a measure of bulk as a multiple of full lot coverage. The maximum FAR in the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning is 12.

The 80 Flatbush project, with a special rezoning request to be considered by the City Planning Commission and City Council, has a proposed FAR of 18; Borough President Eric Adams, somewhat obliquely, proposed an FAR of 15.81.

What about Site 5?

Well, no FAR has been announced, and we haven't had any updates since we saw massing models in January 2016. So we have to do some math.

The lot at Site 5, as noted in a presentation prepared by developer Greenland Forest City Partners in January 2016, is 48,655 square feet. (The 80 Flatbush site is 61,400 square feet--see p. 4 here--so Site 5 is 79.2% of it.)

The plan as approved in 2006 and 2009 is for 439,050 square feet, which means an FAR of 9. Remember, the New York City Planning Commission had recommended reductions in the proposal because the site transitions to lower-rise areas.

As of January 2016, the developer proposed 1,142,042 square feet, moving bulk previously planned an approved for the plot of land that now serves as the arena plaza, and giving up only plans for a giant tower there.

The taller of two towers would rise as high as 785 feet; note that the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, with the clock tower, is 512 feet. (The taller proposed 80 Flatbush tower is 986 feet, though Adams has recommended it be cut to 600 feet, nearly the height of 610-foot 333 Schermerhorn.)

That works out to an FAR of 23.5 for Site 5, which is a stunning figure. (Remember, as the Municipal Art Society commented regarding 80 Flatbush: "With an FAR of 18, it would represent the highest density development outside of Manhattan since 1961 that does not use a transfer of development rights to achieve its peak density."
From Greenland Forest City Partners presentation January 2016. Note that the Site 5 project actually would be more than three times the bulk of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, and the "green" space is neither green nor empty of structures
What would a reduction mean?

If Site 5 were cut to an FAR of 15.81--Adams's proposal for 80 Flatbush--that would represent a 32.6% cut in bulk, to 769,235.55 square feet. Note that some of the justifications for the increased FAR at 80 Flatbush--a school, a community facility, a new subway entrance--have not (yet) been proposed for Site 5.

And like 80 Flatbush, the site appears to be able to accommodate significant bulk given its presence at Flatbush, Atlantic, and Fourth avenues--yet at the same time bordering row-house Pacific Street and generally low-rise Park Slope and Boerum Hill.
Site 5 in center, opposite arena; photo taken from 333 Schermerhorn
The FAR history of Atlantic Yards

As I wrote in February 2006, then Forest City Ratner VP Jim Stuckey, at an 11/22/05 presentation before the American Institute of Architects, described the overall project density as 8 to 8.5 FAR.

"The overall density, across this entire project, to be built to exactly what’s proposed today, would be roughly eight to an eight and a half FAR," he said, according to a tape of the meeting. "Which while it looks to people thinking of a large amount of space, in fact, in the adjacent Downtown Brooklyn plan, which was approved not too long ago, the density in that plan ranged from an 8 to a 10 FAR....The density of this project is really not all that different than what recently went through the public approval process."

As I wrote then, Downtown Brooklyn is not Prospect Heights, a mostly residential district which borders low-rise residential districts. The Downtown Brooklyn rezoning actually reached an FAR of 12 on some blocks, though other blocks retained lower densities, including 2, 4, and 6 FAR.

Site 5 is not Prospect Heights but rather technically the northwest tip of Park Slope or, more realistically, a transition node between low-rise Park Slope (the block adjacent), the Fourth Avenue mid-rise corridor (to the south), high-rise Downtown Brooklyn (to the northwest), and the low-rise retail corridor of Atlantic Avenue and Boerum Hill (to the west).

So the original Site 5 density was a compromise.

The state findings re Floor Area Ratio


According to the Land Use chapter of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement:
The project’s overall density would be more concentrated on the western end of the project site (the arena block and Site 5), where the overall density would equate to a floor area ratio (FAR) of 8.6 (10.3 FAR not including the area of the streetbeds incorporated into the project site); the FAR on the project site east of 6th Avenue and would be 7.4 (8.2 without the streetbeds incorporated into the project site). The total FAR of the proposed project would be 7.8 (9.0 without the streetbeds incorporated into the project site).
Note how the use of streetbeds lowers the FAR. And that, even though the arena block and Site 5 have higher density than the eastern portion of the project, the change proposed for Site 5 is enormous.

Note that the arena, which covers a lot of ground but is actually not that high all around, lowers the FAR, as well.

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